Exploring web-mediated communication: A genre-based linguistic study for new patterns of doctor–patient interaction in online environment


  • Marianna Zummo University of Palermo




computer-mediated communication, doctor–patient exchanges, genre, modality, relationship model


This paper questions the nature of the communicative event that takes place in online contexts between doctors and web-users, showing computer-mediated linguistic norms and discussing the nature of the participants’ roles. Based on an analysis of 1005 posts occurring between doctors and the users of health service websites, I analyse how doctor–patient communication is affected by the medium and how health professionals overcome issues concerning the virtual medical visit. Results suggest that (a) online medical answers offer a different service from that expected by users, as doctors cannot always fulfill patient requests, and (b) net consultations use aspects of traditional doctor–patient exchange and yet present a language and a style that are affected by the computer-mediated environment. Additionally, it seems that this new form leads to a different model of doctor–patient relationship. The findings are intended to provide new insights into web-based discourse in doctor–patient communication and to demonstrate the emergence of a new style in medical communication.

Author Biography

Marianna Zummo, University of Palermo

Marianna Zummo is a researcher at the university of Palermo. Her research interests cover many areas of applied linguistics, including genre studies (in particular, the textual genres of sports journalism and medical writing), English for Specific Purposes and communication dynamics, doctor–nurse–patient interaction, computer-mediated communication, and studies in modality and evidentiality. Her research and publications are primarily related to issues in health communication. address for correspondence: università degli Studi di Palermo, Scienze umanistiche, Viale delle Scienze Ed. 12, Italy.


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How to Cite

Zummo, M. (2016). Exploring web-mediated communication: A genre-based linguistic study for new patterns of doctor–patient interaction in online environment. Communication and Medicine, 12(2-3), 187–198. https://doi.org/10.1558/cam.31897